Restore a Rusted Shut Tool





Introduction: Restore a Rusted Shut Tool

Here is a simple and cheap way to restore a tool that has become hopelessly rusted from exposure to the elements.

Step 1: Supplies

apple cider vinegar (white vinegar may work as well, though I haven't tried it yet)

salt  (not sure if this is entirely necessary - but I know it works well for cleaning pennies in concert with the vinegar)

plastic dish big enough to submerge the rusted parts of the tool

old toothbrush

Step 2: Submerge the Tool in Vinegar

place the rusted part of the tool in the dish

pour in enough vinegar to submerge the rusted parts

Step 3: Add Salt

apply salt liberally over the whole area

Step 4: Check on It Tomorrow

Leave the tool in the mixture for 24 hours

Step 5: Brush

After a day has passed, look at the tool.  You should see a lot of rust flakes and debris in the solution.

Use the old toothbrush and scrub away the remaining deposits.

Step 6: Wiggle

Try to work the tool.  You might feel it give a micrometer or so.  Work it a few times.  Resubmerge, Brush it a bit.  Let it sit in the solution again for a bit.  Wiggle it some more.  Brush, repeat.   It should before long suddenly break free from being stuck.  Wiggle, brush and resubmerge a few more times.

If that doesn't work, maybe leave it another 24 hours.  But this treatment should be enough to get it back into working order.

Step 7: Blot, Dry, Oil

Rinse the tool and then blot up any excess water or vinegar you can and then set the tool in a warm place to dry.

Give it few drops of oil and work it to help keep it from getting rusty again.  Not sure what kind of oil is appropriate here, I had this 3-in-1 oil handy so I used it.  Some commenters are swearing by WD40.   Some people are saying that WD40 is green, however, it looks to be made of mostly petroleum products:

And, since everybody keeps  mentioning it:  another way achieve a similar result is with an electrolytic process.  If you have the facility to do that, more power to ya.



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    57 Discussions

    surprisingly using coke or diet coke will remove rust pretty well. A friend and I got a lot of it off of some really rusty wrenches and now they look great.

    4 replies

    Most soda drinks contain phospohoric acid (which is another reason why dentists don't like them). A can of Coke and a an old toothbrush also does really well and fast at cleaning off corroded automobile battery terminals.

    Although Coke does have a high citric acid content it is the acid neutralizer that is responsible for cleaning battery terminals. Baking soda solution will clean as good or better in most cases. The powdery substance that builds on the terminals is acid from the battery that evaporates and is drawn to the terminals by static charge I believe is the term while being charged by the alternator.

    It is not advisable to clean battery terminals this way how ever since the acid neutralizer can get inside the battery and neutralize the acid inside the battery and kill the battery or shorten it's life. Battery terminal cleaner brushes are cheap and easy to use and a lot less messy.

    P.S. I have tried other brands of soda pop and Coke is the only one that has any effect on battery acid.

    In THEORY, any CARBONATED liquid is in effect dilute CARBONIC ACID, and thus will remove rust! It is not just the citric and/or Phosphoric
    acid, as any combinations are powerful! AND, a really powerful 'derusting' agent is, wait for it...... KOOL-ADE!!! It's so strongly acidic, that it dissolves the enamel on teeth, and bleaches old concrete
    back to its bright, new color!!!

    How long would you have to have the tool sit in the Coke before noticing a clean change in color?

    Thank you for this instructable. I really appreciate that it uses vinegar and salt which I do have at home. Not using other (potentially unsafe) things that I don't have.

    Vinegar works fine, specially if it's hot. I put it ALONE in a bowl for one minute in the microwave before using it, adding salt after. NO METAL IN THE MICROWAVE !

    Wait 'till it goes on sale.

    I'll have to try vinegar & salt.



    4 years ago

    WD-40 spray or any other penetrating liquid works too.

    3 replies

    good 2 know - does it remove the rust as well? I don't happen to have any around - but I'll remember that

    It loosens the rust but discolors the steel. If you want to restore a clean finish, use a steel wire brush (hand brush or a bench grinder wire wheel) to remove the discoloration.

    Opposite to vinegar, WD40 is much better for preventing than removing rust.

    Yes, it works but costs $18 for a quart. Vinegar and salt cost much less and are already on hand in your kitchen cabinet.

    This is great. And much better than that horrible WD40.
    Dillute the left-over vinegar with plenty of water and noone and nothing will come to harm.

    I use WD40 only when there is absolutely no other way and only when it's really something that absolutely needs to get done.

    Read the WD40 health warnings and go figure:
    Inhalation (Breathing): May cause anesthesia, headache, dizziness, nausea and upper respiratory irritation.
    Skin contact: May cause drying of skin and/or irritation.
    Eye contact: May cause irritation, tearing and redness.
    Ingestion (Swallowed): May caused irritation, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
    First Aid Emergency Procedures
    Ingestion (Swallowed): Do not induce vomiting, seek medical attention.
    Eye Contact: Immediately flush eyes with large amounts of water for 15 minutes.
    Skin Contact: Wash with soap and water.
    Inhalation (Breathing): Remove to fresh air. Give artificial respiration if necessary.If breathing is difficult, give oxygen.
    Pre-existing medical conditions such as eye, skin and respiratory disorders may beaggravated by exposure.

    Aspiration Hazard: If swallowed, can enter lungs and may cause chemical pneumonitis.
    Do not induce vomiting. Call Physician immediately.

    4 replies

    Thanks for letting us know about WD40. I had no idea the stuff was so bad. I use it very occasionally.

    I'll use it very sparingly in future.

    From the MSDS for the 3-in-1 Motor Oil:

    "Emergency Overview:
    CAUTION! May cause mild eye irritation. Prolonged or repeated skin contact may cause mild irritation and
    defatting dermatitis. Avoid eye contact. Avoid prolonged or repeated contact with skin and clothing.

    Symptoms of Overexposure:
    Inhalation: High concentrations of oil mists may cause nasal and respiratory irritation.
    Skin Contact: Prolonged and/or repeated contact may produce mild irritation and defatting with possible
    Eye Contact: Contact may be mildly irritating to eyes. May cause redness and tearing.
    Ingestion: This product has low oral toxicity. Swallowing may cause gastrointestinal irritation, nausea,
    vomiting and diarrhea. Aspiration into the lungs during swallowing or vomiting may cause chemical

    Medical Conditions Aggravated by Exposure: Preexisting eye, skin and respiratory conditions may be
    aggravated by exposure."

    Most of what's listed for WD-40 is there strictly because a lawyer said it needed to be. If used correctly (e.g. proper ventilation, no prolonged exposure, etc.), WD-40 won't harm you. Just don't huff it or swim in it and you'll be fine.

    "Fine" is way different. And not just because I don't think they just put these warnings on there because some lawyer said it.
    I also won't be fine because I learned the difference a responsible way to handle resources and the environment can make. Just because I won't suffer immediate harm as long as I don't inhale or swim in it doesn't make this a good and safe fire-and-forget product in the last.

    What I know for sure is that there are are products that come without the need for these warnings and I do remember a number of products that were considered safe only to cause horrific tragedies for the next generation or decades later. This goes even more for cancer-related issues where long-term causes are hard to pinpoint.

    My area of being fine extends far beyond the outer layer of my skin.

    Vinegar could be dangerous too... lets make the example with the WD40 warnings

    Inhalation (Breathing): Prolonged inhalation of vapors can cause irritation to respiratory tract

    Skin contact: safe (vinegar)

    Ingestion: safe (vinegar)

    Eye contact: May cause irritation, tearing and redness

    Vinegar is 5% acetic acid, if we take acetic acid as is, we got this: